I love squatting weights. However, I have a bad back. By doing the usual back squat, it can put a lot of strain on my spine if I don't watch my form to a T. That's when I learned about the front squat, to help save my back. The front squat is great because it puts more emphasis on your core. Also, it forces you to straighten your lower back because, if you don't, you will tip forward with your weights. So, it got me thinking: which squat is better for your health? The back squat places more emphasis on your glutes and hams. You need a squat rack to complete this exercise. The front squats place more emphasis on the core and quads. You don't need a rack for front squatting. According to StrongLifts, "A study comparing the Front Squat with the Back Squat claimed the Front Squat is equally effective for overall muscle recruitment. But their data doesn’t support this. Of the six muscles they measured by EMG, only one (the erector spinae) tested slightly higher on the Front Squat. The EMG data showed higher muscle activity on the Back Squat for the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris and semitendinosus muscles. The vastus medialis tested equal. Despite this difference, the authors concluded the bar position did not influence muscle activity while it did. All subjects lifted heavier weights on the Back Squat than the Front Squat. The heavier the weight, the harder your muscles must work to overcome gravity and Squat the weight up. Muscle recruitment is therefore higher on the Back Squat than the Front Squat as the EMG data showed. Note that the study authors claimed their subjects were experienced lifters. Yet they only lifted 90% of their body-weight on the Back Squat and 70% on the Front Squat. A 61.8kg Back Squat is beginner level for a 165lb male.5 The subjects of this study were therefore beginners, not experienced Squatters." To be honest, there is no winner here. One isn't necessarily better than the other-it just depends on your goal and your form. For an all around workout, include both types of squats in your routine for maximum benefits. Here's how to do a front squat:
- From rack with barbell upper chest height, position bar in front of shoulders.
- Cross arms and place hands on top of barbell with upper arms parallel to floor.
- Dismount bar from rack.
- Squat down by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend forward, keeping back straight and knees pointed same direction as feet.
- Descend until thighs are just past parallel.
- Extend knees and hips until legs are straight.
- Return and repeat.